Cloud network security is a cybersecurity subpart that primarily deals with limiting malicious access to information stored on public or private cloud infrastructure. Granted, there are certain overlaps between securing on-site networks and cloud networks. But due to the inherent complexity of cloud environments, separate tactics are needed.
In the present cloud-first economy, organizations big and small are moving from on-site data networks to cloud-based infrastructure. This naturally translates to more business-critical information being stored on the cloud. Now, it’s a given that this information needs protection, but the architecture of cloud networks makes the situation somewhat complex.
Interestingly, the very things that make the cloud so very versatile and capable make cloud security challenging. Just think, migrating new assets to the cloud is extremely simple. Compare this to an on-site network where the entire infrastructure is managed by the IT and security teams. This makes the network expansion process time-consuming.
Yet, it also means that the new configurations are double-checked by security experts. In the case of the cloud, anyone with the right login credentials can add new infrastructure. While this does offer simplicity in network expansion, it also leads to the risk of loosely configured systems. This can hide much latent vulnerability.
The next the challenge in securing a cloud is the rapid pace of change that cloud networks are characterized by. As a direct result of technologies such as serverless computing and autoscaling, cloud assets are in a constant state of flux.
This makes it difficult for traditional security measures such as vulnerability scanning to protect cloud assets. In a cloud environment, vulnerability may exist for a short time frame, even a matter of minutes. While such a short window is not enough for securing the cloud, it is enough for rogue elements to get through.
The above factors make it extremely tough for security professionals to maintain a cohesive image of their cloud infrastructure. In hybrid environments, this problem is exacerbated manifold. Here, due to the dual-presence of on-site as well as cloud networks, the information is stored and protected in a more distributed manner.
As a result, security professionals need to work across complex and varied boundaries to achieve their security goals. With attackers moving across systems, it can become very tough for security teams to assess and maintain the organizational security standards.
Finally, in the case of a network with a public cloud provider such as Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Azure, there’s the question of shared responsibility. This means the network owner shares responsibility with the service provider for maintaining network security.
This shared responsibility model differs from provider to provider, but in general, the provider is responsible for securing the cloud’s physical infrastructure. The security of any systems running on top of that infrastructure is the responsibility of the owner of the system.
This is, in a way, better, since large cloud service providers like Google, Amazon, and Microsoft can devote better resources to cloud protection. However, this can introduce considerable confusion in the business using the cloud. People may fall prey to thinking that just because something is in the cloud, it’s the responsibility of the service provider to protect it. This might not always be true.
One of the most important steps that any organization should take to reduce cloud security risk is to create a security baseline for the cloud environment. The baseline lays down the ideal image of the cloud security measures for that organization.
The primary purpose of this baseline is to ensure that all stakeholders are on the same page regarding cloud security. It’s best to have this in place before starting cloud migration but anytime is better than never.
Certain best practices can be followed to establish this baseline, such as cloud environment architecture specification. This should be followed by asset configuration type definitions and access rules. This baseline is also applicable to pre-production and test environments, as these can often be entry points for attacks.
Also, as new threats and vulnerabilities emerge, the baseline should be updated and expanded. Once created and updated, this baseline should be communicated to all cloud stakeholders across the organization.
Further, security teams also need to work with DevOps for enforcement of the baseline. This can include the creation of cloud infrastructure templates, regular system monitoring, and continuous vulnerability detection from the moment of deployment.
In the case of hybrid networks, it’s best if the same team is in charge of handling on-site as well as cloud security. This eliminates the creation of silos and blind spots, which can be detrimental to the overall security efforts.
Another aspect to consider is the tools being used for cloud security maintenance. Legacy tools are not suitable for cloud management; also, the use of separate tools for securing different parts of a hybrid network can lead to confusion. Hence, teams should look for tools that allow them to manage all aspects of IT security.
Examples of such tools include vulnerability management solutions for the regular detection of threats in mixed-network environments. An advanced SIEM solution, with cross-network data aggregation capabilities, can also be used for automatic threat detection.
In addition to the above, security teams can also deploy automation-based security tools for securing cloud networks. Automated systems can take off much of the workload from the shoulders of the security team.
Further, organizations looking to deploy cloud solutions should incorporate a few other best practices. For example, security should be made a part of the SDLC as early as possible. By tackling security issues during the development phase itself, organizations can ensure that any web applications that are being deployed will remain protected from vulnerabilities new and old.
Organizations deploying web apps to the cloud should also consider additional measures for protection. This can include Web Application Firewalls and Runtime Application Security Protection solutions.
Author: DeshCyber Security Engineer
September 07, 2020